So, this is how the other half lives?
The Patriots are quickly finding out the hard way of what life can be like without a bona fide franchise quarterback, or at least one who’s playing at less than 100% health and with an underwhelming group of skill position players.
Cam Newton threw three interceptions and was benched in the fourth quarter of New England’s 33-6 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday at Gillette Stadium, a setback which has the Patriots in perilous position at 2-4 just nine days shy of the NFL trade deadline.
New England has now lost three straight games for the first time since 2002, one year after the franchise’s first Super Bowl victory.
The superlatives only get uglier for the Patriots. The 27-point margin is their worst loss at home under Bill Belichick and matches their second-worst overall since the turn of the century; New England also lost by 27 points, 41-14, on Monday Night Football in Kansas City in 2014 (the "On to Cincinnati" game) and a 31-0 season-opening loss in Buffalo in 2003 (the Lawyer Milloy game).
The Patriots have now gone three straight games scoring 12 points or fewer for the first time since 1995-96, too.
Newton finished 9 of 15 passing for 98 yards before he was replaced by Jarrett Stidham, his 39.7 passer rating the third-worst of his career in 136 appearances.
"Very disappointing," Newton said. "But we just got to be better."
Tom Brady, who started 324 games for the Patriots over 20 seasons, finished with a lower rating just twice.
But in fairness to Newton, it’s hard to imagine Brady performing much better given the circumstances. Jakobi Meyers, who didn’t even enter the game until N’Keal Harry left with a head injury, was the only Patriot who had more than one catch before the team’s final drive.
Stidham was just as bad as Newton, finishing 6 of 10 for 64 yards and a 39.2 passer rating.
"I can't speak for everybody," Newton said on the team's struggles. "I just stick to the man in the mirror and I wasn't good enough. I didn't -- in no way shape or form did I put this team in a position to compete, and that's inexcusable. This is the National Football League where a lot is put on the quarterback and I have to deliver and I haven't done that."
New England was gashed by San Francisco (4-3) on the ground as well, giving up 197 yards rushing -- its most of the season. Jimmy Garoppolo (20 for 25, 278 yards, two interceptions) was more or less a nonfactor in his return to Foxboro following the Oct. 30, 2017 trade which sent him to the west coast.
"We were clearly out-coached, outplayed," Belichick said. "Just out-everything. So we need to just keep working here and find a way to just do everything better. We're just not performing at a good level right now in any area. So that's across the board."
Jeff Wilson Jr. paced the Niners with 112 yards and three touchdowns, including a 3-yard score on the game's first possession which ensured San Francisco would never trail.
A Nick Folk 40-yard field goal 4 seconds into the second quarter marked as close as New England would get. The 49ers jumped further ahead on a Robbie Gould 40-yard field goal, a Kyle Juszczyk 4-yard touchdown run and a 16-yard touchdown run for Wilson before the first half was out.
Folk kicked a 41-yard field goal on New England's opening possession of the second half to make it 23-6 before Wilson's third score, a 7-yard run, reestablished his team's hold on the game. Gould kicked a 32-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to complete the scoring.
Should we mention that Brady was 33 for 45 for 369 yards and four touchdown passes today in Tampa Bay's 45-20 win over the Raiders?
The Patriots face a virtual must-win game next Sunday against the first-place Buffalo Bills (5-2) in Orchard Park, New York at 1 p.m.